The Historicity of the Book of Daniel – Daniel 8:1-7; 15-21

 
One of my concerns, as I was first thinking about preaching from this book, was that I wasn’t always going to be able to find subjects which I considered appropriate for our Sunday morning services. I have always pictured you inviting most of our visitors to come in the morning rather than the evening. And so I have always tried to have a message which can be logically concluded with the gospel. I want you to give those invitations, knowing to some degree what to expect from the sermon. After the gospel, I have looked for Bible doctrines which are fundamental to the gospel in some fashion. I have been taught, and I believe, that every message should be able to conclude with the Lord Jesus Christ in one fashion or another, but with some messages it is easier than with other messages. Usually, there is enough in any chapter so that I can do a bit of juggling for the morning service. But, as I say, I was concerned about Daniel.

And with this chapter, my fears are somewhat realized. I read and reread each chapter, jotting down general themes, and then any incidental references which could be developed into messages. And in that regard, here in chapter 8 we are introduced to the angel Gabriel. But just a month ago, we had a message on angels. And then there is the fact that “angels” aren’t high on my “Sunday morning” list – that is an evening subject to my way of thinking.

This chapter is all about a vision about two major kingdoms – Persia and Greece. There is little else here for us to consider, especially in a “Sunday Morning” context. And yet….

There are at least three statements which lead us toward one important Bible doctrine. And even though my thoughts will be a little more technical than I would prefer for this service, the importance of this doctrine eases my mind just slightly. Notice that verse 4 says, “I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.” Then verse 7 says, “And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: & there was no power in the ram to stand before him…” And finally, verse 19 says, “Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.”

In Daniel’s vision, the ram did what he chose to do. Later the goat destroyed him, “and there was no power in the ram to stand before him.” I believe that it was actually the sovereign God – Jehovah – who controlled these beastly kingdoms. While it was the will of Darius, Cyrus and then Alexander to dominate the world, it was actually according to the divine decree and purpose of God. The prophesy which was given to Daniel before the rise of the Medes, Persians and Grecians proves, not only the omniscience of Jehovah, but His authoritative control. This, my friends is major, fundamental, Biblical doctrine, albeit somewhat deep and complex.

In order to properly magnify this doctrine, I’ve got to step into an area that I don’t particularly enjoy. I don’t enjoy it, because it’s not really Bible. It comes more out of the handbook of Satan.

The historicity of the Book of Daniel.
You may not be aware that those who hate the Bible attack this particular book more than any other, except perhaps for some of the books of Moses. They may hate and attack specific passages and chapters more often, but of entire books, Daniel has been in their sights more than almost any another major portion of scripture. I won’t go deeply into the gory details, but you should be aware of some of the highlights.

For example, critics delight in the fact that Daniel was written in the Aramaic language rather than Hebrew. In some people’s minds this immediately sends up a red flag. This book is unique – or almost unique. They say that it must be because it came from a different source – a human source. But if they are going to say this of Daniel, then they must say it of Ezra as well, because it too was written in Aramaic – and of course many critics do say this. But wait a minute, both Daniel and Ezra are similar – they were written from the same foreign perspective. Ezra begins with the words – “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying…..” There is a logical reason to expect both books to be written in the language of Mesopotamia. But why wasn’t Nehemiah also written in Aramaic? Forgive me for answering like a tired parent to a tireless two-year-old – “Simply because it wasn’t.” God made a choice, and I don’t have a problem with that.

Ah, but there is another anomaly. Only half the Book of Daniel was written in Aramaic. Beginning with this chapter 8, the rest of the book was written in Hebrew. This prompts some who hate the Bible, and particularly this book, to say that the first part was written by one person and the last half of the book was written by someone else. In fact, some critics say that there were anywhere from 3 to 6 different writers of this book, and that it is primarily fiction. Again, I don’t have a problem with this change of language, and perhaps the reason can be seen right here. The vision of this chapter looks forward to the point that Babylon isn’t even mentioned. The rest of this book is not for the sake of Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar, but for Israel and for us. There was no need for Belshazzar to hear about this vision, and he probably didn’t hear about it. Why not give it to Daniel in Hebrew and have him record it in Hebrew?

Those who hate our Bibles and who attack our Bibles under the pretext of scientific investigation like to lay many charges against the details of this book. They suggest that the fall of Jerusalem and the taking of Israel’s young men, can’t be substantiated by history. I don’t worry about that, and suggest that history can’t substantiate creation or Noah’s ark either, but creation and the flood are both true. Some say that the term “Chaldean” can’t be found in secular literature until the second century B.C. (By the way, “B.C.” means “before Christ” and I’m going to stick with that terminology, even though it isn’t considered to be politically correct any more. And “A.D.” according to my dictionary stands for “anno Domini” which means “the year of our Lord.” It doesn’t mean “in the Christian era”). Some people say that the term “Chaldean” proves that the Book of Daniel wasn’t written during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. But the lack of current secular evidence, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t common then, and lost since. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that a recent archeologist found this term in much earlier records. Some critics don’t like what the Bible says about Belshazzar – claiming that he didn’t exist or that he wasn’t the son of Nebuchadnezzar. As I have said, he wasn’t the son of Nebuchadnezzar but the grandson. And there is sufficient evidence to his existence and reign. Some of those same people used to deny the existence of the Hittites and other nations of people. Later, after archeologists found enough evidence, they had to eat their words – whole books. Those same people don’t like the references to Darius. Some don’t like the Biblical spelling of Nebuchadnezzar, rather wanting the more secular “Nebuchadrezzar” I could go on for an hour recounting the hair-splitting of the enemy of God, but it would be pointless.

I’ll come back to the real problem that these people have, but just one point before we do that – You have my permission to disagree if you like, but I think that God has a sense of humor. I think that He may have deliberately made this Book of Daniel to be more difficult than other books. Just as the Lord Jesus used parables to separate the spiritual men from the spiritual boys, God the Father may have made some scriptures more difficult for the same reason. And today He sits back and laughs at the foolishness of the unbeliever. Perhaps Psalm 2 relates to something slightly different, but there is a relationship to this point. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

Nearly all of those Bible critics who attack the Book of Daniel, try to say that the last half of this book was written in within 200 years of the birth of Christ – during the days of the Maccabees. They say that it must have been so in order for Daniel to get the details of this chapter so precisely correct. But we know that the city of Jerusalem fell about 607 B.C. We know that Babylon fell in 538 B.C. Therefore we know that Daniel prophesied in God’s Name more than 500 years before Christ. We also know, according to secular history, that Alexander the Great was born in 356 B.C. and that he died in 323 B.C. Why do the critics of Daniel, the unbelievers and the haters of God, attack this book so ferociously? It is because if Daniel is true in describing the rise and fall of Persia and Greece, then there isn’t a logical thinker in all the world who should not fall on his face before the God who made this revelation 200 years before it’s fulfilment. The wicked have to say that this book is a fake, a fraudulent record, written after the rise of Alexander – or they condemn their own unbelief.

I need not bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that for every non-substantiated detail, there are twice as many details in this book which have been thoroughly authenticated. Things like the royal authority and the punishments of furnaces and lions. Things such as the way that decrees and letters were written by people in that culture in that day. The way that Babylon fell without resistance is in perfect agreement with other histories. The inviolability of the laws of the Medes and the Persians is attested in other documents. The testimony of Josephus is really interesting even though it might not prove anything. He wrote that when Alexander the Great was shown a copy of Daniel, he was very impressed. As a result he treated Israel with a kindness that was not shown to other nations. It is said that the use of the phrase, “Lord of Heaven” wouldn’t have been used in Grecian times, because of the Greeks association with Zeus. It is also said that evidence of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah has been found in secular history.

It is true, of course, that Christians take the Bible by faith. We believe that it is true from cover to cover, and as some say, “including those covers which say, ‘Holy Bible’.” Our trust in the Bible is not dependent upon the agreement of secular histories or authors. But when those secular sources agree with what we already believe, it doesn’t hurt our feelings.

Having said all of that, let’s return to Daniel’s vision given to him in the third year of Belshazzar.
The vision of the ram corresponds with Nebuchadnezzar’s chest of silver and the bear of the last chapter. Verse 3 – “Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.” Verse 20 – “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.” Please remember that this was several years before the fall of Babylon to Darius the Mede. In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision he saw a great image. “This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar “Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, And another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.”

In Daniel’s first vision – given to him in the first year of Belshazzar – he saw four beasts. Daniel 7:3 – “And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.” In Daniel’s vision, the lion represented Babylon, and the bear succeeded it – the Medes and Persians. Then the bear was followed by the speedy leopard. This was very confusing to Daniel, who had no explanation for the leopard, and only a guess about the bear.

But here in chapter 8 the questions are removed. Verse 5 – “And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.” Verse 20 – “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”

To be quite frank with you, at this point I’m not sure what I should, or even could, add to this.
The identification of the Medes and Persians, followed by Greece, should be astounding to us. Assuming that these prophesies were given years before the rise of the Medes and Persians, and more particularly, a couple of centuries before the Greeks, the unbeliever should be left speechless. How can a God who makes these predictions be doubted or denied? This kind of God must be worshiped – must be revered, followed, believed and served.

Perhaps the only question that believers might debate arises from a different direction.. Was Daniel given this vision, because Jehovah foresaw what the future held, or was this future guaranteed because Jehovah actually controls the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms? In my mind there is only one answer – Jehovah is God, and nothing is left to satanic desire, mindless chance or human peccadillo. Alexander was going to bring down the Persians, because that was the will of Almighty God. And eventually his kingdom would be divided into 4 segments before the Romans would devour them all. Out of the Romans will come the Antichrist, bearing similar characteristics to a Greek – whom we will consider this evening. But that Antichrist will ultimately be destroyed by the true Christ, who will soon return in power and great glory.

And now, the remaining question is this: what is your relationship to the God who controls all things and can make such marvelous prophetical revelations? Do you have a Mediator between yourself and this holy God? Is Christ Jesus, your Lord and Saviour? The command of God is to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you living in repentance and faith? If you are not, then you will be consumed by eternal wrath of this Almighty God.